Monday, July 21, 2008

How's That? Forbes Says San Diego #3 Most Bike-Friendly?

Just a week after Kathy Keehan's (San Diego County Bicycle Coalition) critical observation at the Voice of San Diego that "it takes more than a bike path" to make a city bicycle-friendly, Forbes Traveler ranks San Diego as the third most bicycle-friendly city in North America, behind only Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado and ahead of bike mecca Davis, California.  

This in itself is bad enough, but among Forbes' most glaring gaffs, the statement that San Diego is "flat."  That's so wrong, it's funny.  The photo shows Upas Street between Florida Street and Park Boulevard, coming up from Florida Canyon on the north side of Balboa Park.  Indeed, the city is built around canyons.  I can't think of one core neighborhood that doesn't have at least one substantial hill.  Obviously, these Forbes people have never tried to squeeze into the bike lane alongside two narrow lanes of aggressive traffic to get either up or down the epic Texas Street hill between Interstate 8 and Adams Avenue.  Or how about trying to get from the vaunted velodrome on the east side of Balboa Park to the zoo or museums on the west side?  Yeah, there's a hill.  Don't even get me started on Little Italy or Banker's Hill (yeah, "hill").  There's another neighborhood called "Hillcrest."  It's right there in the name.  Hill.

And that doesn't even begin to address the wheel-bendingly horrible condition of the streets and roads, the pathologically aggressive drivers, the dense network of freeways that bisect otherwise perfectly serviceable bicycle corridors, or the general lack of interest in meaningful bicycle development shown by city and county officials.  Not to be a nay-sayer or anything, but really, just what the hell were the Forbes people thinking?  The weather is nice, I'll give them that, but only if you like to be all hot and sweaty when you get where you're going.

Bitch, bitch, bitch, I know.  But really, the point is this: if San Diego is #3, I worry that we're setting the bar waaaay too low for what it means to be bicycle-friendly.  There's a long way to go before San Diego even approaches bicycle-friendly for people who commute or ride on a daily basis, and while this ranking could have the benefit of spurring greater improvements in the future, I do sincerely hope that it doesn't create a sense of complacency among our public officials.  I know that the SDCBC will continue to push for meaningful improvements, and that others will continue to work to try to make San Diego live up to its undeserved high-ranking, and until then, I guess I'll take comfort--while laboring up to Park Boulevard from Florida Canyon--that San Diego is flat.


  1. It's nice to know that San Diego is flat when riding from Golden Hill to Hillcrest through Powerhouse Canyon. It's nice to know San Diego is flat when I feel like riding technical mountain bike trails in Balboa park. Oh, and it's really nice to know Fern St is a dedicated bike route when the street is filled with cars parallel parked, no bike lane, and no space for a car to move over if they want to pass a bicycle.

    And don't leave out the B St drop off of Golden Hill that makes most San Francisco roads look flat! I've seen semis get jammed there, motorcycles jump over the entire intersection, and bicyclists fly 10 feet down the hill before coming back into contact with pavement. Yeah... flat

  2. I hear you, liquide, I hear you. And, you know, I think you and I, and most riders in San Diego, accept that hills are just part of the deal. There's not a heck of a lot you can do about them, after all. It's not the hills/canyons that make San Diego a not-very-bike-friendly town, it's the rest of it--aggressive drivers, insufficient (or misleading) infrastructure, etc. It's just funny how Forbes could have gotten it so wrong about the hills. I actually laughed out loud when I read that, which is rare for a Monday morning.

  3. Forbes, like all the other "Top Ten" listers of this and that, uses some set of datums that alow some editor in New Yor generate "intersting" copy that is about as reliable and accuarte as a virgin describing sex.

    I ride in San Diego, and say it is, and it isn't Bike friendly. I tend to stick to the flat parts, and rely on public transit to get me over the hard parts. The biggest downside is the attitude of tranist security towards bikes.